Monthly Archives: June 2013

Why I Liked World War Z

First, a disclaimer. I love zombies. In the last few years zombies have entered the mainstream and I’ve loved every bit of it. So I went into World War Z wanting to love it. I wanted to love it despite the troubled development of the movie, the constant negative press leading up to it’s release, and the warnings that the adherence to the source material (Max Brooks’ book, World War Z) was poor. Did I love it? No. But I did like it quite a bit.

First, the movie itself. It’s split clearly into three acts. The first sets up the the character of Gerry Lane (played by Brad Pitt), his family, and the fall of the world to the so-called zombie plague. This act plays out well with a fast and tense opening and the appearance of the first zombies is quite shocking. For the zombie aficionados the zombies in World War Z are initially portrayed as fast-movers, contrary to the book where they were definitely slow.

The second act, takes us through Lane’s global journey as he tries to seek the source of the out-break of the zombie plague. There’s some spectacular action shots in this act, with hordes of thousands of zombies running amok in the streets of Jerusalem. I can see where the (supposed) $200 million spent making this movie went when I see these scenes. The only comparable “horde” CGI shots that I can recall are some of those seen in The Return of the King.

The final act, which is probably the weakest, resolves Lane’s quest. It’s at this point that the movie reverts to costumed zombies that we’re all more used to seeing in movies such as Night of the Living Dead, 28 Days Later, and the rather hilarious Zombieland. There’s some tense moments and I certainly jumped a few times. The resolution to the movie is a little weak and from what I understand it’s this part of the plot that caused the most troubles during development and it shows. The ending is a little open and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a sequel.

Given that this movie is a hardcore action blockbuster I’d dare to say that there’s very little character development in the movie other than with Pitt’s character. We learn he loves his family, has a somewhat shady past working for the United Nations, and has a surprising ability to survive airline crashes and being impaled on aircraft components. Other characters are something of non-entities with only a couple springing to mind. The first, Pitt’s wife, Karin Lane (played by Mireille Enos) is something of a non-entity who should know that ringing someone’s phone when they are in a zombie infested area is usually a bad idea. The second, is a zombie who appears on screen for nearly 5 minutes towards the end of the movie. Never did I think that bad dentures, rolling eyes, and grey corpse like make-up could convey such humour and menace. Yet, somehow they did, much to the amusement of myself and many others in the cinema.

It’s worth me spending a few lines talking about how the movie adheres to the book by Max Brooks. Basically, it doesn’t. There’s some echoes of it in a couple of spots. The strongest of these is when Lane talks to a US special forces captain in South Korea (played by James Badge Dale) and he starts re-counting the sort of zombie origin tale that was at the core of the original book. However, shame on the producers changing the origin to South Korea instead of the China as stated in the book. I understand this was done to not offend the Chinese film market. So, if you’re a lover of the book don’t expect much homage paid to it by the movie.

I wanted to love this movie since the first day I’d heard about it, and given all the bad press I went in expecting to hate it. I left quite satisfied, having enjoyed the journey. It’s a fun ride from beginning to end, with the required number shocks to make me jump in my seat and enough zombies to satisfy even the most ardent fan. Recommended.

Short Form Copy Landing Page Experiment

As a result of the utter failure of my recent long form copy landing experiment I decided to take some of the lessons I learned and apply them to my short form copy landing pages. There were several key points I tried to keep in mind when constructing the new short form landing page. Here’s what I tried to keep in mind:

  1. Centre and bold the title and sub-title.
  2. Target the title specifically at the Adwords keyword to increase page quality score.
  3. Focus the sub-header clearly on the key benefit of the product.
  4. Use a catchy (and REAL) user testimonial as the first real content.
  5. Include a source for the testimonial, including a real name, a real company and a live link to the company. Adds greatly to the credibility.
  6. Provide a clear call to action AFTER establishing credibility.
  7. Provide clear pricing information.
  8. As I’m selling software give technical requirements to help re-assure and also stop invalid conversions (ie people using non-compatible computer systems).

Here’s the old short form page.

Figure 1 : Old Short Form Landing Page

Figure 1 : Old Short Form Landing Page

Not a great landing page but one that has converted fairly well for a while. I believed it could be improved in a number of ways. Firstly, the CTA comes too early. Secondly, the bullet list is too long, the items are too long, and they are not focussed. Thirdly, there’s a very poor benefit focus to the copy. And finally, I believe the system requirements box is better to be used for more important information (such as price).

Here’s the new short form page.

Figure 2 : New Short Form Landing Page

Figure 2 : New Short Form Landing Page

You can see that I’ve done my best to incorporate all of the improvements I discussed in the list above. The centered and bolded title and sub-title to draw the eye and the testimonial is good one. I am particularly happy with the sub-title as it encapsulates what I believe are the two biggest benefits users get from using Time Clock MTS. My only concern is that the testimonial is a little long. I’ve got many other testimonials to choose from so I’ll trial some others in the future. The CTA (the download trial button) is in what I think is a good position, credibility has been established and (hopefully) interest piqued. Key objections that a potential user might have are addressed in the smaller text boxes in the page footer. Namely price objections, using the software on multiple computers, and the system requirements.

I setup a Google Experiment to test the new layout versus the old one. Traffic to these pages is 100% sourced from my Adwords campaigns and I chose to split the traffic 50/50 between the two pages (no guts no glory!).

Figure 3 : Experiment Results

Figure 3 : Experiment Results

After Google had collected 18 days worth of data it closed the experiment having found a clear winner. My new short form landing page performed 41% better than the old page. Clearly a big improvement. I’m delighted that the lessons I’ve learned seem to have paid off here. I’m going to validate the experiment by reconfiguring one of my other Adwords landing pages using a similar approach.

My thoughts about further improvement include trying a shorter (and perhaps punchier) testimonial, trialing a different benefit focused sub header, and (perhaps) changing the colour of the CTA button. I’m a little skeptical of the various “I changed the colour my button and doubled conversions” claims that you read but I mustn’t leave any stone unturned.

Long Form vs Short Form Copy Part 3

Well, the results are in. My attempt at long form copy is a failure. You can see the experiment results below:

Long Form Copy Experiment Results

Long Form Copy Experiment Results

As you can see, Google Experiments decided fairly early on that the long form copy page was a load of rubbish and stopped sending visitors to it. The end result was that the original short form copy page out performed the long copy page by 330%. I’d call that a pretty decisive vote against my long copy! Of course there’s a few possible reasons why my long copy page didn’t convert. Here’s what I believe they are in order of likelihood:

  1. My Long Copy is Rubbish – despite spending a lot of time developing my long copy there’s every likelihood that it’s just garbage and would never convert.
  2. Long Copy is Wrong for Potential Time Clock MTS Users – Time Clock MTS is fairly inexpensive and the major barrier to purchasing it (price) is not really there. Long form copy is traditionally suited to expensive or complex purchases. Time Clock MTS is neither of these.
  3. Adwords Visitors Have a Short Attention Span – I’ve noticed that the average time on site for Adwords visitors is much less than for visitors from natural search results. Perhaps they have a shorter attention span or perhaps my Adwords ads are poorly targeted. In any event, long copy is unlikely to work on people with proven short attention spans.
  4. Google Experiments Are Flawed – I’ve completed several dozen Google Experiments now and I’ve seen a clear pattern of behaviour in the case where there’s a clear winner early on (think within a 48 hour period of starting the experiment). After the first day or two Google only directs a trickle of traffic to the page alternative that is clearly the worst option. I’ll need to read a bit more about the reasons behind this.

As a result of this experiment I’ve decided to abandon the long form copy approach for now and tweak my short form copy pages with some techniques I’ve learned from the long copy exercise. More on this shortly.